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Ex-GI gets early release in Kabul

June 14, 2007|From the Associated Press

KABUL, AFGHANISTAN — A former American soldier has been released after serving three years in prison here for running a private jail and torturing terrorism suspects, the warden said Wednesday.

Jonathon K. Idema, who received a pardon from President Hamid Karzai as part of a general amnesty, boarded a plane out of the country with a dog that had lived with him in prison.

Rahim Ahmadzai, Idema's lawyer, said he did not know where the former soldier was headed when he left June 2.

In an e-mail, Idema, a former Green Beret, wrote, "I can't and won't tell anyone where I am and what I am doing."

Shamir, the warden of Policharki prison, said Idema had wanted to stay in Afghanistan but couldn't for legal reasons. Shamir, like many Afghans, goes by one name.

In court documents filed this week in Washington, Edward P. Birsner, consul at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, said that Idema had left for "an unknown destination." The papers were filed in a case in which Idema accused the FBI and State Department of ordering his torture and manipulating the Afghan judicial system.

Idema's U.S. attorney, John Tiffany, said, "At some point, he'd like to come back to the United States. He's an American. He loves his country."

Idema, a bounty hunter, was sentenced to 10 years in September 2004 after he was convicted of entering Afghanistan illegally, making illegal arrests, establishing a private jail and torturing captives.

Two other Americans also were convicted and jailed. Brent Bennet was released in September. Freelance cameraman Edward Caraballo was released in April 2006.

Idema denied mistreating prisoners and maintained that his activities were sanctioned by the U.S. government.

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